Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

April 23, 2014

Council tables cell tower permit apps

TAHLEQUAH — Tahlequah city councilors on Monday opted to hold off on approval of two special-use permit applications that would help AT&T install a couple of 150-foot cell towers within the city.

Branch Communications is asking for the permits as it attempts to construct two monopole cell towers – one on Commercial Road near Green Country Funeral Home, and another at the Tahlequah Public Schools bus barn on Pendleton Street. Other towers are being built outside of the city limits.

Members of the city’s planning and zoning board gave their OK for both permits last month.

City staff recommended the tower near Commercial Road be lit to protect helicopter pilots who fly into nearby hospitals.

Staff recommended the tower near Pendleton be built at 149 feet high or lower based on recommendations from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Representatives of AT&T and Branch Communications pleaded their case, telling councilors that AT&T hasn’t upgraded cell towers in 14 years.

AT&T Area Manager Craig Cromley said the new towers are necessary for community growth. Cromley said data traffic has increased 20,000 percent in the community over the past seven years, and more towers are necessary to fill in coverage gaps.

But Donna Eastham, a Tahlequah resident whose parents donated land on Commercial Road to First Baptist Church, told councilors that a tower there will ruin the aesthetics of the area, including the church’s steeple. She also worries property values in the area will suffer from the towers.

Eastham told the council she – an AT&T customer – understands the need for cell towers, but asked that city leaders require AT&T engineers to reconsider the location of the proposed towers.

Ward 4 Councilor Linda Spyres made a motion the council table the permit request for the tower at Green Country Funeral Home. Spyres said she wants to do “a little more digging myself.”

Spyres suggested the introduction of broadband services to the community may eliminate the need for additional cell towers. Councilors unanimously supported her request to table the permit.

Spyres also suggested the council table the request for a permit to build a tower on Pendleton.

Ward 3 Councilor Maurice Turney voted against postponing that request, but Ward 1 Councilor Diane Weston and Ward 2 Councilor Charles Carroll opted to support Spyres’ request.

Councilors also appointed Jerry Cook, a former Tahlequah mayor, to sit on the board of the Tahlequah Public Works Authority.

Cook will fill the seat vacated by Mark Smith. Mayor Jason Nichols said Cook has previously served on the TPWA board.

srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com

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